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Should you enlist in a fitness boot camp?

It’s tough on the body and mind but boot camps get results
WebMD Feature
Medically Reviewed by Dr Rob Hicks

When you think of a boot camp do you get an image of doing press ups in the mud while a big, burly man shouts abuse at you? Well, it’s not like that at all. Boot camps are a fantastic way to whip you into shape with the emphasis on fun rather than fear.

Boot camp style classes have really caught on in the UK. They can be regular sessions at your local park, weekend boot camps to kick start a fitness and weight loss regime and longer residential boot camps in far flung foreign parts.

The one feature they have in common is that they have an instructor whose job it is to motivate and challenge you to get results.

So how tough are the exercises?

Each boot camp operates differently.

British Military Fitness (BMF) was the first to introduce boot camps in the UK. They’ve been going since 2000. Now there are more than 800 instructors who are all either serving or former members of the armed forces. They operate out of 120 venues across the UK.

Laura Kettle from BMF says, "There are three levels of fitness: blue, red and green. Sessions last an hour and exercises include a ten minute warm up, team challenges, press ups, burpees (a squat thrust with a jump) and sit ups."

Celebrity trainer and big noise in the fitness world Gavin Walsh started his boot camp company in 2005. It runs four week courses where you sign up for two or three sessions a week.

"It’s 45 minutes of an intense work out but it’s structured to fit in with the fitness levels of the people in the class; some may be novices some may be really fit already," he tells us.

"Exercises are press ups, squats, lunges, use of resistance bands and boxing gloves. There’s a good variety.

"They have homework to do too - two recovery workouts a week."

Fitness instructor Jane Simons runs her own boot camp sessions. She says you could be doing team games, drills, interval training, circuits outside in the mud, or even snow - the possibilities are endless!

Vanessa Alexander is the founder of Fat Attack boot camps. They run weight loss weekends to kick start fitness and weight loss regimes.

"Over a 48 hour period you’ll do 16 hours of exercise. You’ll have a variety of exercises including 10k runs, using kettle bells, kick boxing, circuits with sandbags and assault courses."

Louise Ford goes to a boot camp class in Northamptonshire.

"You spend some time running but then the real pain kicks in with the exercises. Normally shuttle runs, burpees, sit ups, press ups and the plank."

"Sometimes you get to race each other, other times you are in pairs supporting each other through sessions. And if you are lucky you then get a relay sprint at the end!"

She adds: "By the time I get home I can't walk and just lie in the bath trying to get over what has just happened. However, I really do enjoy it. It's nothing like the gym, nothing like a jog out in the fields. It is tough, intense."

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